Let’s talk type. Herb Lubalin.
This is typical of Lubalin’s work: a stark, bold layout—with bespoke lettering, combined to create a stunning composition. It’s A 1959 trade-journal ad, promoting the work of the advertising firm Sudley & Hennessey, where Lubalin worked from 1945 to 1964.
This week I spent an evening at St. Brides typographic library for a celebration of the life and work of the American Graphic Designer and for the launch of the first comprehensive monograph devoted to him since 1985.
Adrian Shaughnessy, who authored the revealing manuscript gave a list of facts that he had learnt while compiling his research.
- Herb’s surname is pronounced Lu•bah•lin (not luba•lin). It wasn’t just the Brits that mis-pronounced it, people around him often got it wrong, prompting a graphic motif showing the correct pronunciation.
- Famous for being taciturn and for his monosyllabic utterances, his best friend, Lou Dorfsman (see my last post), recalled flying from New York to L.A. with him, without Lubalin uttering a single word to him.
- He was colour blind. This resulted in a few awkward moments with his team, when discussing colour choices. With his mastery of black and white work and with full-colour printing still expensive, how would you even know?
- He was truly ambidextrous, able to sign cheques for the admin staff while drawing type at the same time.
- Lualin was politically very active—often designing for liberal magazines with little or no budget. When his friend and publisher, Ralph Ginzburg, went to prison for printing a photo of a mixed-race embrace, in Eros magazine, that Lubalin designed, he told his wife “I should have gone to jail too.”
- He rated Saul Bass as the greatest designer of the time.
You can find the new book Herb Lubalin, American Graphic Designer1918—81at United Editions. Books produced by designers, for designers.